Category Archives: Caribbean Plus Lit News

Literary news of interest from the Caribbean and wider world

All the Books

As I may have mentioned here before, my latest book, the children’s picture book With Grace, was selected for the U. S. Virgin Islands’ Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge. I thought it’d be cool to post all the selected books – no reason you can’t add them to your or your kids’ summer reading list wherever you are.


Here’s the full 2017 Title Information

Title: Spider in the Rain
Author: Phillis Gershator
Grades: K – 1
Specs: 32 pages, paperback
A small spider happily looks out from a rooftop gutter, admiring the fluffy clouds passing overhead, but the clouds he sees are RAIN clouds.

What should a little creature like him do in the rain? Iguanas, bats, birds, mongooses, butterflies, and bees all give the spider good advice. But it’s too late.

Down comes the rain and washes the poor spider out––down the waterspout and into a pond. What will happen to our spider? Will he survive? If he does, will he return to his old ways, or will he try something new?

Title: When I Grow Up
Author: Rick Grant
Grades: K – 2
Specs: 32 pages, paperback
This poetic and colorful book speaks to the dreamer in all of us
and serves as a reminder that when searching for the best job in
the world, the heart is the first place where we should look.

Title: When the Trees Come Alive
Author: Zayd Saleem
Grades: 2 – 3
Specs: 32 pages, paperback
Malik’s mother asks him to take a bag of fruit to his
grandmother’s house. On his journey, Malik recalls all that his
grandmother has taught him about magnificent trees that can be
found in the Virgin Islands.

Title: Close to Nature: Sea Turtles of the Virgin Islands
Grades: 3-6
Specs: 48 pages, paperback
Meet the amazing sea turtles of the Virgin Islands.
Some can dive two thousand feet underwater, some travel
thousands of miles every year, and others love to eat jellyfish. A
fun and educational book filled with information about one of our
favorite animals.

The book contains beautiful photos by Virgin Islands photographers.

Title: With Grace
Author: Joanne C. Hillhouse
Grades: 4-5
Specs: 48 pages, paperback
Grace, of Grace’s Peak, loves her home above the village, above
the whole island. All her trees are lush and full of ripe fruits,
except for the one at the far end of her land. She hates that tree.
So when the smiling, barefoot girl from the village asks Grace if
she can pick fruits to sell at the market, it is from that sad, bare
tree that Grace “generously” allows her to pick. Little does Grace know that the young girl’s kind, loving heart and her sweet special song will make the impossible happen, and change life at Grace’s Peak forever.

Title: B is for Benye: A Virgin Islands Historical and Cultural
A-Z Book
Author: Charlene Blake-Pemberton
Grades: 6
Specs: 48 pages, paperback
Clarice and Vincent, who live on the island of St. Croix, send a
special package to their grandchildren in Florida. Can you guess
what is in the box? Through the eyes of a Virgin Islands family,
the author describes the culture and cuisine of the US Virgin
Islands. Roots and culture are the underlying themes in B is for
Benye: A Virgin Islands Historical and Cultural A-Z Book


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Mailbox – Children, Teen/YA Caribbean Books Rec’d

Summer Edward, a specialist in the area of children’s books specific to the Caribbean region, recently did a list for Caribbean American Heritage Month in Horn magazine. She shared the link and I thought I’d share with you for your kids’ summer reading adventures, Caribbean or not.

Here it is.


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#TBT Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival


The date stamp on this picture is November 5th 2010. The occasion is the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival which launched in 2006 as the Caribbean International Literary Festival before re-branding the following year. It was a post-Independence annual event, one of the first of its kind in the region; since eclipsed. The ABILF puttered to a quiet end – the last installment that I’m aware of was 2013 after a big start and uneven run (and while there were subsequent whispers of its return, they seem to have been just that, whispers).

Not the first (or last) time our little island has executed ambitious ideas (speaking specifically of arts initiatives) only to then run behind. Should we count it as a miracle then that Antigua’s Carnival is this year celebrating its 60th anniversary? Or maybe a template given the clear commitment across all sectors?

From the beginning, the ABILF attracted marquee Caribbean and international writers, so the line-up wasn’t the issue. In 2010, I remember Eric Jerome Dickey was there, Althea Prince, Lorna Goodison, Anthony Winkler, Elizabeth Nunez, Zee Edgell (I may be mixing up years but these are some of the names that come immediately to mind from that year). Pictured are renowned Guyanese poet and children’s author John Agard (at the mic), and seated at the head table (right to left) one of my favourites Guyanese poet Grace Nichols, and Barbadian poet Esther Phillips – who went on to launch the BIM Literary Festival and Book Fair in 2014. The location is the grounds of the Anchorage Inn, one of three locations the festival had during its run – beginning at Jolly Beach and ending at Jolly Harbour, with some events also taking place, I believe, at Halcyon Resort.

I don’t know the ins and outs of why this didn’t last, but from what I do know I’m going to say – money (with a side of lack of vision to see the potential). As with many things art in Antigua and Barbuda, private citizens led the way on this – specifically travel and media entrepreneurs, sisters Pamela Arthurton (a Wadadli Pen patron) and Joy Bramble. I can’t speak to what level of state support they received; I just wish someone with access to state resources had had the vision to keep this going before we got left behind.

It’s something that a group of private citizens launched a new literary national event, the Wadadli Stories Book Fair this year (2017). But this throwback photo reminds me of what once was and, if we hadn’t lost momentum, when you consider the spread of literary festivals as not only arts but tourism events across the Caribbean region (something I wrote about in Writer’s Digest), what could have been all now.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. Also find me at:


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Reading Room and Gallery 24

The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too  – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 24th one which means there are 23 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one. – JCH


Kenwyn Murray on lessons he learned from other Trinidadian artists – in two parts – really interesting read and visually stunning. Go to Part One.


“I’m always most interested in any version of the question, what am I most scared to write about? I try to answer it as honestly as I can every single time, and I often discover it’s something I did not know about myself, which is thrilling. I think that’s the direction I need to run to.” – Shivanee Ramlochan in Caribbean Beat


“I find it invigorating to constantly work in new forms and genres.” Alyse Knorr at Grab Life by the Lapels


“This secret chocolate handover was our special sin. Everybody know that a little secret-sinning sweet too bad. If you don’t agree I know you lying through your teeth. In them sinning moments Reggie softened, forgot his constant pain and forgot to fight the big C. He even forgot to fight me.” – Sweet Sop by Ingrid Persaud is the winning story from the Caribbean Region of the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize


‘Granddaddy start to look uncomfortable. “Go and start getting ready for school. I gine mek you some breakfast.”

“It is Saturday.”

“Stop giving me back chat!!” Granddaddy yell. He turn and stomp back into he bedroom.’ – from Shakirah Bourne’s Corn Curls and the Red Bicycle in Adda


“Arnav’s palms are cool and moist; I know he is frightened. He quickens his pace and I am afraid he will break into a run. I tell him it’s alright; they didn’t hear the asphalt hit the hut. I push him in front of me and clutch his shirt from behind. They will shoot him if he runs. They are shooting a lot of young boys these days. In the villages that flank our town, they are making boys run in the open fields, then shoot them down as if they were balloons at a hit-the-target game in funfairs. There is a name for it which escapes me now.” – Greetings from a Violent Hometown by Ritu Monjori Kalita Deka


“Before he died, my father, who loved words, told me that the Chinese language has no past tense—that therefore all events recur and nothing ends. Similarly, he said, the Japanese language has no future tense and so, in order to imagine the days to come, all we have within our vocabulary is the present.” – The Second Waltz by Madeleine Thien


– Maya Angelou


“Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size” – An audio of May Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman at Poem Hunter

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Lullabye by Eileen Hall

Buckra pic’ney, tek’ yo’ res’,
De full moon waalkin’ to de wes’.
Dis night too quiet an’ too wile—
Wha’ mek you sech an’ own-way chile?
A’ wha’ you watch fa’? You too nyuuung.
Wait til trouble tie yo’ tongue.
Wait til you grown an’ gaan from home,
Den w’en you call, a’ who goin’ come?

Dis night air blowin’ very cowl.
Wha’ mek dat darg begin fu’ howl?

Fool neber ‘fraid w’en moon look bright,
Say, “Crab and jumbie lub dark night.”
Jumbie like moon as well as we—
Dey comin’ waalkin’ from de sea.
Deir foot tu’n backward w’en dey tread,
Dey wearin’ body ub de dead
Dat fisher-bwoy dat wu’k on sloop,
He watch dem waalkin’ from Guadeloupe.
Dey waalk de Channel, like it grass;
Den, like rain-cloud, he see dem pass.
Dey comin’ steppin out ub Hell,
Wit burnin’ yeye an’ a sweet smell.

This poem was published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, in Hall’s 1938 collection. Think about that – 1938 – and then read that poem again, ahead of its time for many reasons including the use of our nation language and the common man’s perspective in so-called high art when in 2017 there are some who still think of our various creoles as nothing more than bad English. Hall is from Antigua where just a few years ago, in this time, its use on school campuses was outlawed though it, frankly, never went out of use because, come on, you might as well tell us to cut out our tongue. That the colonial attitude that devalues our natural speech was dismissed (as suggested by her embrace of it here) by a poet who would have come of age in colonial times and, her history suggests, as part of the middle to upper class is interesting to say the least and just one of the ways Hall seems to be ahead of her time. The entire collection is illuminating. I wish it were still in print but, alas, it isn’t and Hall as poet is little known in Antigua. Even Wikepedia claims her for America even while acknowledging her Antiguan birth and lineage. “Eileen Hall was an American poet. She was a friend of Ford Madox Ford’s. She married Dr Michael Lake and her first collection – The Fountain and the Bough (1938) – is dedicated to him. After the marriage she was also known as Eileen Lake and Eileen Hall Lake. Hall was born in Antigua; her father’s family was from Oxford and her mother’s family was part French and part Irish, the French side having been in the West Indies since the mid seventeenth century.” I feel like asking Wikepedia, “how, Sway?” But I’m happy for what little information they do provide as the only previous information I had on Hall was from the summer 2012 edition of The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books which does credit her as “an Antiguan-born poet” and speaks to the fine reviews her collection received. It provides some more information on her writing journey: “Her translations of works by short story writers; and her own poems from earlier issues of prominent literary journals including Harper’s, Poetry, and American Mercury, show the breadth of her literary engagements…Her short stories and translations of other women’s work are strewn in small publications on both sides of the Atlantic.” On her use of Antiguan vernacular, the Review notes, “Her Author’s Note, included in her 1938 volume is, even now, invaluable; while full of irony: ‘the poems in Part IIII, referring to Antigua, West Indies, contain words and allusions that may beunfamilar.’ A rich glossary of ‘the negro dialect of Antigua’[sic] follows, illuminating those six poems – two of which are in the reputed ‘dialect’: (Obeah Woman, and Lullaby).” Incidentally, that edition of the Review, Volume 5 Number 1, is a good introduction to the early writings of women from Antigua, invaluable because significant as the discovery of Jamaica Kincaid was for me as a teen and wanna-be writer in the late 1980s and as monumental as her contribution has been to world literature while coming from this small place, there is a literary legacy that predates her, little as it’s known.

Hall’s poem, excerpted from a larger work, is shared purely for informational and educational purposes. No profit is being made. We believe that sharing it here falls within internationally understood fair use guidelines but, if we are incorrect, in respect of the rights of the copyright holder, we will remove if instructed to do so. We just thought that it was important for Antiguans and Barbudans to become more aware of the contribution to the literary world of this born Antiguan. – JCH, Blogger

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Caribbean Poets Forward

The 26th annual Forward Prizes will be awarded on September 21, 2017, at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre in London. Among the writers on the shortlist there are Caribbean writers such as: Ishion Hutchinson (Port Antonio, Jamaica); Malika Booker (of Guyanese and Grenadian parentage); and Richard Georges (Port of Spain, Trinidad). [Caribbean writers Vahni Capildeo and […]

via Forward Prizes 2017: Shortlists — Repeating Islands

The Forward Prizes for Poetry are the most coveted awards for poetry published in Britain and Ireland: they have played a key role in bringing contemporary poetry to the attention of the wider public for quarter of a century. They were set up in 1991 by philanthropist William Sieghart to celebrate excellence in poetry and increase its audience, and are awarded to published poets for work in print in the last year. The three prizes – £10,000 for Best Collection, £5,000 for Best First Collection and £1,000 for Best Single Poem – are unique in honouring both the work of established poets and the debuts of brilliant unknowns. Past Forward Prizes winners include Claudia Rankine, Thom Gunn, Seamus Heaney, Alice Oswald, Ted Hughes, Carol Ann Duffy and Kathleen Jamie.

Among the writers on the shortlist there are Caribbean writers such as: Ishion Hutchinson (Port Antonio, Jamaica); Malika Booker (of Guyanese and Grenadian parentage); and Richard Georges (from Port of Spain, Trinidad and resident in the British Virgin Islands). [Caribbean writers Vahni Capildeo and Tiphanie Yanique were among last year’s Forward Prizes winners.]


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New Release, Guest Post: Opal Palmer Adisa

Loves Promise Full CoverMy Evolving Feminist Agenda: The Story Behind Love’s Promise

By Opal Palmer Adisa

I ran into William, a friend from my childhood.  I did not recognize him, but he recognized me. “Remember, you said we would get married when we grew up.  We played house together,” he said, laughing. We were probably eight years old when I promised him my love and now we were several decades older, married, with children, divorced, and looking to start anew.  We talked for over an hour and reminisced about our childhood.

After William left I sat over Chai tea and wondered about those childhood promises I made and received, and reflected on whether we could go back to and reconnect with the past.  This is the kernel for Love’s Promise, a collection of eleven stories, which primarily examines romantic promises that were made during adolescence. Although a few of the stories were published many years before the idea for the collection came to mind, I seized the opportunity to juxtapose old with modern, as well as to explore these themes of love and promises as connected to spirituality and Caribbean sensibilities.  I also conceived Love Promises as a sequel to my very first collection, Bake-Face and Other Guava Stories (Kelsey Street Press, 1985), which is about love and friendship between women – often the first kind of relationship women have outside of familial love.

Love’s Promise is a delicious and delicate proposition that has to do with the heart and how deeply and keenly one is connected to one’s heart when one makes a promise –to pledge an intention.  A promise sets up expectations for the receiver, and places an obligation on the one making the promise. When we were children William obviously took my promise to heart, while I must have just been caught up in the moment, and issued that promise without giving thought to my obligation or what such a promise might mean in the future. A promise has emotional weight; it is an agreement that two people make to each other –a commitment. Who among us has not made a promise in the name of love? And once made, how committed are we to that promise? Events and circumstances might cause one to forget or forgo that pledge. I did. On the other hand, there are those who hold fast to their promise despite distance or time.

In writing Love’s Promise the questions I posed for myself were: Is love a lasting thing?  Can one truly fall out of love?  What circumstances causes one to renege on their promise?  What if someone deliberately, deceptively makes a promise to elicit a desired effect from the recipient? Because I want readers, especially women, to identify with each of the diverse women characters, I deliberately avoided mentioning several of the characters’ names, referring to them throughout as only “she.” Also, because I believe our childhood/adolescent crushes greatly inform the relationships and bonds we form as adults, at least three of the stories trace the genesis of the characters life from these early formations. But also, because I don’t believe we can experience a meaningful life, without confronting some hard decisions which push our moral buttons, and cause us to question if love is “right” regardless of the circumstance, we have stories such as “Conscience is the Same as Do Right,” and “Trio,” to allow readers to suspend their judgment and step into the shoes of some other women, whose decisions are at best questionable.

I want readers to reflect on their own lives and choices long after they have closed the book. I want them to reconnect and recommit to some of the promises they made and may have forgotten about or have allowed to remain unhinged. Mostly though I want readers to focus on their loves and the importance of their promises to others, so as to not speak lightly like Lynton, the character from “Soup Bones”, who makes a promise which he does not keep and reaps the wrath of his wife.

Love’s Promise is great for everyone who is interested in love and the promises we make in the name of love.



From the story, “Bus-stop:”
“Sweetheart, tell Wayne your name again; he is obviously overwhelmed.”

From, “Matrimony:”
“Bake-Face, you know that Natasha says is yu matrimony juice why Ivan propose to her. She say she gwane mek him come and buy some every week just to keep the love strong.”

From “Love’s Promise:”
“Danny, is me,” was all she could say, with her hands on his shoulders, feeling relieved, feeling finally as if that piece of herself that he had been missing had been reattached.

See also:
6.FLYER love promise 6-1-17


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